League: Lure of home final adds incentive for Canterbury

Canterbury have an added incentive to beat Wellington in their national league semifinal in Christchurch tomorrow.

Victory will give Canterbury the rare experience of playing a final at home. This follows Sky Television's agreement to a New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) approach to provide live coverage of the final in Christchurch should Canterbury win.

"It's a real breakthrough for us that Sky has shown it's prepared to take the final out of Auckland," said NZRL chief executive Jim Doyle.

"Having qualified for the semifinals as the top side, the Bulls have earned the right to have the final on their home ground if they win on Sunday but it wouldn't have been possible without Sky's backing."

Almost every previous final in various forms of national competitions has been played in Auckland.

That was the case with the grand finals from 1994-1996 while the same happened with the finals from 2000-2007, two of which were won by Canterbury in Auckland, and again last year.

An exception was the 1997 season when the final was played in Christchurch where Waikato upset Canterbury 34-18. Four years earlier, Canterbury were at home for the national first division championship final when they beat Auckland 36-12.

Canterbury coach Brent Stuart was one of the heroes in the Frank Endacott-coached side that day.

Stuart has guided Canterbury to a five-from-five record in the round robin phase of the Bartercard premiership this season and yesterday he was named as head coach of the Bartercard Selection to face Samoan Residents in Auckland on October 10.

With wins over Auckland (32-30), Wellington (32-0), Taranaki (48-10), Bay of Plenty (66-16) and Waikato (32-4), the Bulls are heavily favoured to beat fourth-ranked Wellington on Sunday.

The other semifinal is between Auckland and Waikato in Auckland today.

- NZPA

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